Seconds after Robert F. Kennedyy was shot on June 5, 1968 in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, Bill Eppridge and Boris Yaro took two of the most widely circulated photographs of Kennedy lying mortally wounded as a 17-year-old-busboy named Juan Romero tried to comfort him.

Now 67, Romero reflects on the moment and the photos in this new recording for NPR’s StoryCorps. (Romero is shown here holding a photograph by Boris Yaro.)

He recalls meeting Kennedy the day before the assassination, when Romero and a co-worker delivered room service to Kennedy. The Senator interrupted a phone call to invite them in. “You could tell when he was looking at you that he’s not looking through you — he’s taking you into account. And I remember walking out of there like I was 10 feet tall,” Romero tells StoryCorps.

Kennedy won the 1968 Democratic primary the next day, and was walking through the hotel kitchen after delivering his victory speech. He had stopped to shake hands with some of the staff. “I remember him shaking my hand…and as he let go, somebody shot him,” Romero recalls.

In the interview, Romero recounts the words he exchanged with Kennedy as he knelt with his hand under the Senator’s head. Romero also gives a moving account of his visit to Kennedy’s grave years after the assassination. In the days after his photo appeared in newspapers around the world, Romero received many letters—some of them angry. He hints at the anguish he’s endured as a result of the publicity from the photographs, as well as guilt over not having been able to do something to prevent Kennedy’s assassination.

Related:
Obituary: Photographer Bill Eppridge, Live Contributor, Age 75

Photographers Explain Their Approaches to Covering Sensitive Subjects

Sam Nzime, Who Took Iconic Apartheid Photo, Dies at 83


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